A study documented today in the June issue of the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses concludes that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana may slow the spread of simian immunodeficiency (SIV) in monkeys. SIV is essentially the simian version of HIV.
Monkeys infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that were given chronic doses of the active ingredient in marijuana appeared to have slower SIV disease progression than monkeys given a placebo. These results, published in the June edition of the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, aren’t proof that marijuana will slow human HIV progression, but they do indicate that the drug does not increase disease progression, as had been feared by some.
Many people with HIV turned to marijuana in the early days of the epidemic to combat wasting disease and to treat nausea and chronic pain. An early, but short study in people with HIV indicated that marijuana did increase appetite in people with wasting and appeared to be generally safe. What’s more, the synthetic marijuana alternative, Marinol, was tested more intensively and was found to be fairly safe and effective for pain relief, nausea and low appetite. Still, concerns have lingered about whether marijuana is safe during the long-term.
Rather than showing evidence that chronic THC might hasten SIV disease progression—as the authors originally hypothesized—LaMotte’s team found that the opposite was true: Daily THC use actually showed evidence of slower disease progression.
Specifically, the monkeys who received THC tended to have lower viral loads, improvements in the ratio of CD4 to CD8 cells, increases in SIV-specific CD8 responses and lower inflammation than monkeys who received a placebo. Even more impressive, monkeys that were given THC were much slower to die than monkeys given the placebo.